Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions

By Leo Mutuku
iHub Research
  Published 16 Apr 2013
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Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions
Understanding the Emerging Impacts of Open Data in Developing Regions What really results from deploying open data apps in the society and particularly in grass-root communities? Why then should we encourage the technology community to explore the business and revenue opportunities that are presented by open data? On what evidential basis,are we demanding from the government (and other organizations) to maintain open data portals? While conversations and research work around open data is relatively new and mainly focused on a country’s readiness to adopt open government, there arises new research challenges with regards to the impacts of existing and upcoming open data initiatives.Many proponents of open data are using hypothetical justifications as to why open data is useful in promoting transparency and increasing service delivery- as a result of increased access to information. In countries such as Kenya, literature suggests that advocates of open data have been painting a dreamy picture of the benefits of open data without hard facts on the real results that open data has produced. Subsequently, there have been articles to the effect that the Open Data Initiative is dead, and that big data is all hype and has no realized impact.This is because there are few attempts, if any, to really show how open data has changed anyone’s life; what sustainable impacts it has had at scale in society; and if it has provided a good business model case for entrepreneurs, companies and government to wish to explore further. We believe that if we can provide empirical evidence on Open Data achieving at least some of its objectives, this will provide the necessary push for our government and local organizations to proactively maintain the existing platforms and even catalyze their evolution to an all-open access repository. In a previous post we announced our new project to study the emerging impacts of Open Data as a result of intermediary interventions through technology applications in Kenya. iHub Research will jump to fill the gaps in literature on emerging impacts of open data in developing countries in a monitoring and evaluation study on deployment of open data technology tools. The main objectives of this research are therefore:
  1. Understand the role that technology intermediaries play in facilitating impacts from Open Data– what is the usage and penetration of these apps; what sources of information are more valuable to citizens?
  2. Assess the value of these technology interventionswhich stimulate community uses of Open Data– is it by improved transparency, accountability, service delivery or citizen participation; do they address social issues and empower citizens to make informed decisions?
This study will be conducted in the following steps:
  • Preliminary literature review on the state of open data in Kenya and how other countries quantify impact of their Open Data initiatives
  • Active deployment of select open data appssuch as those deployed by Code4Kenya etc. and field research to monitor usage of these apps
  • Dashboard analytics of the apps and possibly, related open data portals to also monitor usage of the apps during the deployments.
We hope that by taking part in this research activity we will contribute to the development and testing of common methods of assessing context, strengths and weaknesses of Open Data over time. The research is part of a network, which will aggregate and compare results of similar research activities across other developing regions in order to prepare international frameworks for assessing the value of Open Data. This research, coordinated by the World Wide Web Foundation and funded by grant 107075 from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC, Canada), will be conducted for a period of nine months, beginning April 2013.  
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